19th February 2020
With all the tumultuous political happenings in 2019, it has been easy to lose sight of the long-term issues facing businesses in the North Highlands and throughout Scotland. With the first stage of the Brexit process now complete, and the focus moving to our future relationship with the EU, we hope that 2020 will bring an opportunity to look at what the next decade might bring.
There has been much debate in recent years around climate change and this is likely to be a focus of policymaking at the local, regional and national levels in the coming decade. The ambitious targets set by both UK and Scottish Governments for carbon reduction will bring significant challenges for businesses in the years to come in a range of areas.
These challenges are particularly apparent in remote and rural areas like the North Highlands. Making a greener business in this region, where access to recycling services and obtaining the right materials and products can be costly, will bring difficulties for many smaller businesses. However, through partnership working our area also presents an ideal testbed for climate action initiatives, and the Chamber is working with agency partners on a range of issues. In particular, the Chamber and partners are working to see how Wick John O’Groats Airport can play a role in achieving the Scottish Government’s ambitions for net zero carbon aviation in the region.
As businesses, we have to accept that policy makers and new generations of customers alike will be driving us to lower carbon emissions and reduce waste. More businesses need to start thinking now about the role they have to play in addressing these issues. A little preparation for likely changes now will reap rewards and save costs and challenges further down the road.
An obvious place for many businesses to start is to address their use of single-use items, particularly those made of plastics. While many of us have made efforts in this area, it’s important to ensure that we’re not accidentally “greenwashing” the problem – that is, adopting solutions which look green but actually bring little or no benefit.
For example, many products which are branded as recyclable such as cardboard coffee cups are not easily processed through normal recycling streams, and compostable alternatives can bring additional concerns around release of gases such as methane.
This is a complicated area, but it’s important for us to remember that the aim is improvement, not perfection. The key thing to bear in mind is “Reduce – Reuse – Recycle”. We should first look to reduce our use of single-use items, then to reuse items where we can, and finally to replace items with recyclable alternatives.
These are complicated and difficult issues, and we know that many businesses across the North Highlands will want guidance and assistance as they look to take action. The Chamber will be working with different agencies over the coming months to better understand the challenges of delivering green solutions in remote and rural areas.
Wherever we can, the Chamber will be on hand to help and signpost businesses in the area to the right resources and make sustainable changes which benefit not only their business but the whole community.
If you’d like to chat with us about how your business can make a change, please just get in touch.